Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine (RCIGM) and Deloitte said today they are exploring plans to use unmanned air systems (UAS) such as drones to fly genomic samples from acutely ill babies and children to the lab for testing.
RCIGM, a subsidiary of Rady Children’s Hospital and Health Center, and Deloitte said their goals include speeding results by decreasing delivery time, and thus improving patient outcomes.
The partners cautioned, however, that their plans are now in planning stages pending funding and completion of successful testing before the technology is adopted for routine use.
“By rapidly decoding a child’s DNA, we can provide medical teams with vital information to guide personalize patient care. When minutes matter, we can’t afford to have a sample delayed in transit,” Stephen Kingsmore, M.D., D.Sc., President and CEO of RCIGM, said in a statement.
“We are excited about the potential this innovative technology offers to improve healthcare outcomes for critically sick babies,” Kingsmore added.
RCIGM and Deloitte, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), said members of their project team will test and validate the safety of UAS for sample delivery—as well as address medical and technical requirements such as temperature control and flight safety during deliveries.
“Together with RCIGM, we plan to go from strategy to testing to operational and develop a blueprint for other health care organizations to use,” stated Josh Nelson, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, who leads Deloitte’s work with RCIGM.
Deloitte has identified potential UAS benefits for other healthcare organizations:
- Decreasing health care costs: Instead of establishing rapid genome sequencing centers at more locations, adding to their costs, UAS medical delivery could enable hospitals to provide—within tight budgets—advanced testing services by sending samples to certified, accredited genomic laboratories.
- Extending expertise to rural or remote areas: Those areas often do not have access to the specialty treatments seen in urban areas. UAS medical delivery can bring the new capabilities to harder to reach areas of the country and world, Deloitte reasons.
- Adding medical delivery use cases: Once delivery of samples is well established, deliveries could go beyond genome samples and apply to additional types of samples or to carrying samples over farther distances.
- Expanding medical delivery capabilities: UAS medical delivery could enable the creation of specialty testing centers at strategically located sites, an approach that according to Deloitte could expand the availability of time sensitive advanced testing to hospitals that cannot afford their own testing centers.
“This technology opens many possibilities for providing faster diagnosis for a variety of needs. Coupling rapid sequencing tests with rapid sample transport will speed the time to precise treatment and reduce the period of uncertainty both for providers and the parents of our patients,” Dr. Kingsmore said. “More babies’ and children’s lives can be saved: This is what drives us.”
Nelson said Deloitte’s collaboration with RCIGM was part of the firm’s ongoing commitment to private and public sector clients in the San Diego region.
“Through our work with RCIGM, we’ve seen firsthand their intense passion for helping children with rare disease, and their dedication to discovering advancements to improve patient care,” Nelson added.